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Alcohol Policy Stalls At Academic Council

By Zareena Hussain
Associate News Editor

The three-person ad-hoc administrative committee, which was assembled to review the Institute's interim alcohol policy, presented their recommendations at last month's faculty meeting, but these recommendations have yet to be formally approved by the Academic Council.

"This group of experienced administrators was asked to conduct a detailed review of MIT's current policies and to make any interim recommendations they thought important while a broader discussion is undertaken, and while the Sharp-Goldstein committee is starting its work," saidPresident Charles M. Vest.

Ultimately, the responsibility for adopting the recommendations of the ad-hoc committee falls on the senior officers of the Institute who make up the Academic Council, including Vest.

"The Academic Council is responsible for establishing such policies. We have not established detailed procedures for further review or consultation," Vest said. Although Vest had previously promised "a firm decision" on the recommendations by the Tuesday before Thanksgiving Break, a formal adoption of the recommendations has been stalled at this point.

"The report has been discussed in the Academic Council, but nothing has been formally adopted yet," Vest said.

Under the current ban, imposed by President Vest in the wake of the death of Scott S. Krueger '01, no Institute funds can be used for the purchase of alcohol at events where those under 21 will be present. Exceptions can be made for events which receive "prior approval."

The recommendations of the committee were mostly extensions of Vest's current ban, where the definition of Institute funds would not only include money held in MIT accounts but would also encompass money held by residence halls, fraternities, sororities, and independent living groups, and those associated with an MIT-sponsored off-campus event. "We didn't leave any loopholes," said Associate Provost Phillip L. Clay when he presented the recommendations at the faculty meeting.

Enforcement of policy needed

In addition, the recommendations called for the enforcement of the policy to fall within the office of the Dean for Student Life.

While elaborate procedures have been set up for the registration of official administrative, faculty and student events where alcohol will be present, no official channels have been set up or proposed to deal with violations of the policy.

The policy is "enforced in the sense that we are in a period where we have agreed essentially" to not use Institute funds for the purchase of alcohol, said Dean of Student of Life Margaret R. Bates. "What I think it has done most importantly is begun a conversation."

At the student level, violation of the policy would result in normal disciplinary action not set up specifically for violations of the interim policy, Bates said.

Nearing the end of the term, it would be premature to start widespread discussion of alcohol policy before the Independent Activities Period, Bates said.

Until the start of a broader discussion and the outcome of that discussion in April, the interim policy and its broad purview will still hold.

"The reality is we are in a period of intense public scrutiny; you don't have the leeway for misunderstanding," Bates said.

Vest's alcohol policy guidelines set

Vice-President of Human Resources Joan F. Rice addressed a letter to senior officers, department heads, laboratory and center directors, and administrative officers advising Institute employees of the general guidelines to follow regarding Institute alcohol policy.

Approval for an event where alcohol is served must be obtained from a member of the Academic Council, and approval for such an event where those under 21 will be present must also be approved by a member of the Academic Council, Rice's letter advised.

All events must also be registered with the Office of Conference Services. Student events must be registered with the Office of Residence and Campus Activities.

While there is little confusion over official events and how they fall under the purview of the interim ban, questions still arise over the need to register smaller events, such as a professor inviting his graduate students for a private dinner where alcohol is served, Rice said.

At this point, "the individual is responsible" to act within the law and not serve alcohol to underage students. "People have to be more responsible for each other; that's at the bottom of it," Rice said.